• Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Introduction to Harris River Fishing
If you’re looking for good Alaska fishing, then you will want to know that Harris River is a popular destination for many anglers who are visiting Alaska and really want to see the wild natural beauty of the state nicknamed “The Last Frontier.” This river is located in the southeastern-most part of the state among the islands and fjords that border the western side of Canada. There are a wide array of fish species that Alaska sports anglers can seek there, and the surrounding Tongass National Forest offers plenty of natural beauty for visitors and locals alike to enjoy. Anyone who wants to enjoy the Alaska fishing opportunities offered here will have to do some traveling, but the rewards are not only great angling, but the natural beauty from some of the best and most beautiful landscapes that the state has to offer. Read on for some tips and advice to help you prepare for fishing or fly fishing Alaska’s great rivers.

800px-Koyukuk_River_autumnHarris River Fishing Basics
The Harris River area is located on the Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska. Klawock, Craig, and Hollis are the nearest villages, and the river runs both in and out of the Tongass National Forest. The river cuts through almost the exact middle of the island.  This is a relatively isolated area, and these are very small villages that are still quite a distance from a town of any considerable size, even by Alaskan standards.

Several different species of game fish can be caught from the Harris River. Salmon, steelhead, and trout are the three fish that the Harris River is most famous for, and annual salmon runs sometimes choke the river, completely filling it with fish. Dolly Varden trout are also common in the area. The three most common species of salmon at the Harris River are coho, pink and chum, although there are occasions where the other species can be found in the area as well, but rarely in as great numbers.

Alaska Fishing License Requirements
Anyone age 16 or over is required by Alaska state law to purchase a sports fishing license. Visitors can purchase one-, three-, seven- or 14-day licenses, as well as a full season license. Costs vary from season to season as well, depending on the license that is purchased. As of 2010, costs varied from $30 to $240, plus more if a salmon stamp was necessary.  The only exception to this are residents over 60, who have the ability to apply for a special identification card that also works as a permanent license for them.  Children under the age of 16 do not need a fishing license regardless of residency, but a stamp for salmon is still required regardless of age.

Other Harris River Alaska Fishing Considerations
In the Harris River area, although the open season for fishing of a species might be year-round, there are definitely better times for pursuing certain types of fish. The best trout fishing times along the river won’t be the same as the best steelhead times or the best Dolly Varden trout times. Ask locals for advice on matching the best section of river with the best season to fish for your favorite game fish.  The Tongass National Forest is still fairly wild country. You will want to make sure to have an emergency first aid kit, maps and bear spray. While bear attacks are rare, it’s best to be prepared for any potential situation that might arise.

• Thursday, May 12th, 2011

At one time homesteading was a major part of getting permanent settlers to Alaska, and often worked hand in hand with the rush for gold and other valuable minerals in the late 1800s and throughout the 1900s.  Homesteading is the awarding of land to individuals for free who stay on the land for a set amount of time and develop the property.  That’s why they get the land for free.  While this was used as an attempt to settle the west and far away areas in need of development like Alaska, there is a common misconception that homesteading is still a wide spread practice.  I hate to be the one to burst the bubble, but as I explained in the blog post about Alaska land offerings, that practice has long since passed.

While once in a while a local town might try to entice more people to move in by offering a local homestead program, as far as a homesteading goes, the Federal policy ended in 1976 while Alaska followed suit a decade later and ended their homestead program in 1986, grandfathering in the individuals who had moved into the state under the old program but who had not stayed the required number of years yet or still had time to develop the land.

Some people have fallen for rumors of squatter’s claims in Alaska, and stories abound of squatters managing to take land from the state by some form of adverse possession, but these are myths.  Staying on land 10 or 20 years doesn’t allow someone to officially own the land that belongs to the state of Alaska.


• Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

So Alaska is part of the United States, right?  Well, yes.  Technically.  Anyone who has lived there for years can tell you though that living in Alaska is more like living in another country that simply has some common ties to the U.S.  There is a very unique culture, a unique general attitude, and you can’t argue that there aren’t a lot of places in the States anywhere that can match the amazing scenery that makes up the great state of Alaska.  While you won’t have much of a problem understanding the English, even “Village English” often spoken in the bush (think English spoken in a kind of melodic halting pacing).  While the English difference from Alaska to regular US isn’t nearly as big as the difference between say Australian English and American English, there are still some common slang you will want to know about.

First of all, one big point: NEVER refer to the tallest mountain as Mount McKinley.  That remains a huge sore spot for the residents of Alaska, who ALL refer to the mountain by its traditional native name: Denali (Day-nall-e), the “nall” rhymes with “Stall.”  This might not seem a big deal, but it’s a major point of respect, and besides, Denali sounds a lot cooler anyway, doesn’t it?

While there’s tons of slang that is used by residents, some slang is much more common than others.  This post will briefly describe some of the most common slang phrases used by Alaskan residents.

The Lower 48: The Untied States, specifically the Continental United States.  There is no special name for Hawaii.

Cheechako Love (Seasonal Partners): Cheechako Love is the more traditional slang, referring to very temporary love that often starts as winter is coming and ends in the spring when the sun returns.  Also hints at out of staters who move to Alaska, then think they’re in love going into the first winter.  Seasonal partners is a slightly cruder word for this used by some young adults to the practice of hooking up for winter for *cough* companionship *cough again* and to help one another through the hard winter before then mutually breaking up in the spring.

Sourdough: Refers to an old hand, or long time Alaskan.  There’s no set number of years for this, but “Old Sourdough” gets thrown down a lot, so a decade at the minimum although the implication is usually for a much longer time period than that.

Bear Insurance #1 & #2: This is a fun one.  There are two things this is used as slang for.  First, guns (hey this is Alaska).  Bear insurance refers to a high powered shotgun, .44 Magnum, or .357 Magnum, the only two common handguns which have the stopping power to take down most bears.  Bear insurance #2 is having one friend who is much slower than you.

Seattle Junior: Anchorage, Alaska.  Not recommended to use this around Anchorage, but up in the Interior it’s good for quite a few hoots.

The Interior: Middle of the state, usually north of Denali.  Some people consider the Denali part of the interior, others don’t.  Everyone agrees that the city of Fairbanks is in the heart of the interior region of the state.

The Bush: The Bush is any part of the wild in Alaska only accessible by plane or float plane…which is most of Alaska.

Going Outside: This term is used to describe life long Alaskans who are traveling out of state.

Spenard Divorce: Ah, now here is the type of unique slang you would expect from Alaska!  Based on a story most people insist is true, a Spenard Divorce revolves around an incredibly messy break up/divorce that involves the use of firearms, and sometimes is even fatal to one party.

These are some of the most common and popular forms of slang, although there are dozens if not hundreds of other slang terms, including many that are only used during the deep dark winters that last, you know forever or thereabouts.  However with this list you’ll have a good grip on a lot of the major slang used by native Alaskans and you won’t be behind on the jokes.

• Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Since so many people want to know about Alaska, and many have dreams of moving there, I thought it would be a good idea to start off with the topic of getting land in Alaska.  Many people hope to find a homestead or free land based on old stories or rumors.  One thing I need to set straight right off the bat, to the heartbreak of many of you I’m sure, is that there is no more homesteading in Alaska.  Trust me, I looked into it a lot because I had every interest in buying some land outside of Fairbanks, setting up some cabins, and enjoying the benefits of living in a place that really can be called God’s Country.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t find cheap or inexpensive land up in AK, but you do have to do more homework and be a little bit more creative because the days of homesteading are over.

Ever hear about land offerings?
While homesteading might be long gone, one of the best ways to purchase inexpensive land for development in Alaska is to look for a DNR land offering.  A land offering is when the Alaska Department of Natural Resources puts land up for auction in lots.  A sealed minimum bid is required for the land to be sold, and then the land goes up for auction.  Assuming the highest bid is larger than the minimum amount required, then the land is sold to the highest bidder.  If the highest  bid doesn’t meet the minimum standard set, then the auction is off and the land moves from a land offering to being available for across counter purchase, officially referred to as “over the counter offerings.”  Those, and the land offerings, remain the cheapest method for obtaining large acres or lots of land in Alaska to develop.

What about over the counter offerings?
Over the counter offerings kind of have their own section, but they are directly related to the original land offerings which were put up for sale.  In Alaska, you can buy the land which was not sold at a land offering auction, with lots ranging from a measly 1 acre to a full 40 acres, and average costs ranging from $5,000 to $40,000.  Like land offerings, these are offered to Alaska residents, meaning if you’re planning to move to Alaska it might be worth it to rent for a year, get your state ID, and then take advantage of these programs at that point.

Strangely the same
While many people might think of Alaska as really different, it’s not if you’re looking for a house as opposed to developmental land.  Houses are put on sale all the time, and their is a Realtor system up there just like any other state in the Union.  Use those resources to find a good deal, or buy some land just outside a city to build some cabins.  Really, there is a lot of land up in Alaska and there are many ways to get your share – just not from homesteading.